Editorial: Anyone feel uneasy?

20:18, May 06 2012

You knew Big Brother was watching you, didn't you.

But did you know that all his sisters and cousins were as well?

We shouldn't be surprised that there are at least 50 cameras watching us in Stafford St. Not if we stopped to think about it. Except we don't, do we, unless we're criminally minded? And we're not, right?

In which case, does it matter? To which I'd answer, I don't know ... yet.

What prompted us to go looking in Stafford St yesterday was a story about a privacy forum in Wellington. A police officer mentioned how surveillance cameras were now so powerful that at the World Cup they could zoom in on someone texting and read the message. Wow.

The same forum heard that each person is digitally recorded at least 12 times a day.


That's certainly a possibility in Timaru. More than a third of businesses in Stafford St have cameras. Some have more than one. Then there's the five police-monitored ones around town. And some at ATMs.

There are cameras at petrol stations, and at traffic lights at three intersections in Timaru. Who knew that?

And smartphones. We didn't even count photo-taking smartphones.

So we're being watched, which matters not a jot if we're doing nothing wrong. But what if we're bunking school, or work? Or we're seen with someone (ahem) who we shouldn't be seen with?

Surely video footage couldn't be used against us like that, you'd say. But can we be sure? Ask English rugby player Mike Tindall.

Many of the stores we visited didn't say cameras were operating. And some were downright cagey when we questioned them. Actually, that's fair enough. Some of our reporters look pretty dodgy.

But that's not right is it, that someone can covertly film you?

It's a matter of degree really, and the more desensitised we get to cameras and other digital recording – eftpos transactions, cellphone tracing, emails – the greater the scope for abuse.

All this has happened relatively quickly, and who knows where it will lead? It's a tad disquieting.

Another thing: Talking of disquieting developments, I've just heard about TVs without remotes. Apparently you just talk at them.

Really ... what chance has a bloke got now?

The Timaru Herald